Leadership assessment

What is leadership assessment?

Leadership is crucial to the success of an organisation. Therefore, robust leadership assessment is critical to help identify the best individuals for leadership roles and to support their ongoing development. Selecting and developing top quality leaders helps to drive the organisation forward, improve efficiencies, align effort and energy and engage employees.

Leadership assessment is an objective process used to measure an individual’s (1) talents or strengths and (2) limitations or development opportunities against the requirements for the role. The measurement process can include a single assessment (e.g. personality inventory or 360 degree survey) or a battery of different assessments, and it can be used for a range of purposes including recruitment/selection, development (of performance or potential), restructuring and succession planning.

The process typically begins by identifying the core competencies or characteristics that best predict leadership success within an organisation through a job analysis, competency modelling review, administration of personality questionnaire and/or use of exercises that simulate aspects of the job or role (for example, business analysis presentations or meeting simulations with peers, direct reports or customers). The assessment process is then designed to reflect and measure those particular competencies and/or characteristics most closely associated with success. The insights gained from the review of the leadership role within context helps organisations (as well as their leaders) to understand what it takes to be successful, how to best build bench strength and how to enhance performance – both of the leadership team and the organisation.

Why is it important to assess leaders, and what are the benefits of using leadership assessments?

Selecting the best leader for a role is critical to the success of an organisation. Conversely, making the wrong leadership choices can end up being costly. As a result, conducting an objective and thorough leadership assessment process can help ensure the best people are selected for critical leadership roles, which ultimately leads to enhanced performance, engaged employees and increased profitability (or impact).

A high-quality leadership assessment process can lead to a number of benefits for both the organisation and the individuals taking part in the process. For example, effective leaders help boost morale, drive results, navigate change, engage employees, execute the mission, increase productivity and realise the vision. An effective leadership assessment can help the organisation gain an overview of the type of leadership skills and development areas leaders have, identifying opportunities for further training. From the individual perspective, participating in a leadership assessment can help increase self-awareness which in turn helps to identify key development needs (and perhaps blind spots), guide meaningful behaviour change and enhance performance. In addition, for recruitment, a thorough assessment process provides the individual with valuable insight into the role and the organisation as well as giving them confidence around their ability to succeed in the role.

Importantly, where there are multiple applicants for leadership positions, a robust assessment process provides a consistent and fair approach and also indicates the organisation’s expectations of the leader. Not only does a robust assessment process help predict leadership success, but it also can help to communicate leadership expectations to the individuals being assessed. Especially when the assessment process is being used for development, the participants are given feedback on what is being measured, how they performed and how to develop.

What is the difference between leadership assessment and executive assessment?

Leadership assessment and executive assessment both refer to a process used to measure a person’s fit with a leadership role. Leadership assessment is the broader term and can be used to refer to a wide range of roles from high potential to senior leader. Executive assessment refers only to senior leadership and c-suite roles.


Are there different levels of leadership assessment?

Leadership assessment can be conducted for a whole host of different leadership levels, for example for supervisors, middle managers or the executive level. When designing an assessment process, it is important to ensure that the assessment process is designed appropriately for the level of the leadership role. Ensuring that there is sufficient challenge for those undertaking the assessment process, but also ensuring that it has not been developed at a level beyond the capabilities needed at that level of leadership. Conducting a thorough job analysis when designing the leadership assessment can help to ensure you are measuring the correct aspects for the particular role at the right level of leadership expectations.


Can leadership assessments be run virtually?

Yes, by utilising technology it is possible to conduct leadership assessments virtually. Many personality questionnaires can be completed online, and interviews can be conducted remotely via virtual meeting platforms. There are also assessment platforms which enable leaders to complete a range of simulation exercises, such as role-play exercises and business analysis exercises, virtually rather than in person.

Conducting assessments remotely can be very useful for global firms because a range of candidates/leaders can be assessed at the same time regardless of their location. It also replicates a very real-world experience for those that are required to work virtually and provides the opportunity to bring people together from different cultures and backgrounds.


What happens after a leadership assessment?

What happens after a leadership assessment varies depending on the purpose of a leadership assessment. For example, if the assessment has been conducted for selection purposes, then the best candidate may be appointed to the role. If the assessment is conducted as part of a potential assessment, then successful individuals may then be invited to join a high potential leadership programme. Finally, if the assessment has been administered to support development, then each participant may be enrolled in a leadership development programme and/or assigned to work with a coach. In all instances it is best practice to provide the participants in a leadership assessment process with feedback following the assessment. This allows them to reflect on the process, identify their strengths and development areas, and consider how they can use the information to further grow as leaders for the future.

In most cases a written leadership assessment report is created following the assessment process. This provides a summary of the individual’s performance on the assessment, helping the organisation make leadership decisions as well as helping the individual reflect on their strengths and development areas as a leader.


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